African Americans at Higher Risk for Alzheimer’s disease

As the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research, the Alzheimer’s Association is committed to raising awareness of this fatal brain disease and its warning signs in diverse populations during Black History Month and year-round.

According to the 2019 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, the need for strong voices and advocacy on behalf of our African American communities in the fight against Alzheimer’s has never been greater:

  • African Americans are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as older white Americans.
  • African Americans may be more likely to be diagnosed in the later stages of the disease when individuals are more cognitively and physically impaired – and therefore, are in need of more medical care.
  • Despite their increased risk, African Americans are underrepresented in clinical trials. It is estimated that 97% of participants in industry-funded clinical trials and more than 90% in NIH-funded trials for Alzheimer’s disease are comprised of non-Hispanic whites.
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Many people dismiss the warning signs of Alzheimer’s, believing that they are merely a part of typical aging. While there are currently no treatments to stop or even slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, early detection and diagnosis can allow for earlier use of available treatments that may provide some relief of symptoms and help maintain independence longer. Delays in diagnosis mean that African-Americans are not getting treatments when they are most likely to be effective at improving quality of life, as well as taking critical steps to educate themselves on Alzheimer’s and establish support networks.

Alzheimer’s Association 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life. 
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems. 
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure. 
  4. Confusion with time or place.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. 
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing. 
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. 
  8. Decreased or poor judgment. 
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities. 
  10. Changes in mood and personality. 

The Alzheimer’s Association provides resources and materials for many diverse audiences, including information and issues that might be of concern to African-Americans. For more information, call the Alzheimer’s Association toll-free, 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900 or visit alz.org/Illinois.